Should we call cricket the sport of corruption and fraud, soccer then qualifies to be called the sport of mobs. Nothing exemplifies this label for soccer better than the current 2012 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Football Championship, hosted jointly by Poland and Ukraine.
Apparently, soccer, generally called football in most of the world, was born as a peaceful sport, at least in the Greek and Roman civilizations where its then-prevalent version was played for “fun and frolic”. Yet, the history of early modern soccer in Europe has references to episodes of violence, so much so that “kicking, punching, biting, and gouging” was all legal in its medieval version. Who is surprised then to see an angry Russian mob attacking a few stewards serving at the stadium in Wroclaw (Poland) where Russia had its opening match against the Czech Republic? The incident, caught on tape, pictures the mob psyche, following what was reported in news as an instance of some Russian being spotted throwing fireworks on the pitch.
Maybe, the Russian mob expected to have a free hand at the stadium whether or not their team won (Russia did win the game and the mob incident followed the victory); if a team loses, its mob riots to vent out its frustration (as happened in the 2002 FIFA World Cup); if it wins, the same mob attacks people to get high on its victory. Either way, these soccer-crazy people mean to show the world how serious they can get about treading over sanity when they are in the heat of the moment—and when, by the way, are they not?
There is more to this mob-soccer story that puts even episodic violence to shame. To the masses in general, and animal rights advocates in particular, the reckless slaughter of stray dogs and cats in Ukraine as a “clean up” measure for the event came as an open instance of aggression victimizing vulnerable animals with official swords. Well before the event, this killing took the most brutal form with some cities burning animals alive to clean this “living dirt”. Calls for stopping this mess in Ukraine were ignored and to date, protests remind us of how truly cruel and ugly this much publicized event has been for life and those who care about it.
This was perhaps best symbolized in a photo of a recent protest scene, becoming popular on Facebook with a description (in French) of the cruelty that tells about the killing of 250, 000 dogs and cats in Ukraine to make the place clean for the event. The toy dog held by the woman with symbolic blood on the dog and her body speaks volumes of how clean this obsession about soccer is and at what cost.
So we come to witness the mobs and slaughter and destruction that precede and follow this once peaceful, or less bloody, sport. Maybe Ukraine, like many other cultures in the 21st century, is still not out of medieval times and Russian mobs still need to be reminded that it is a sport – something you do for frolic and fun, not kicking and killing.